As I wrapped up this week’s column this morning, gray light was creeping in the dining room window of my East Cape hotel room, framing a fog-shrouded beach — a very rare occurrence for Baja. I mulled over the title of the column, considering “unsettled conditions,” which seemed to be the theme in every region of Baja. I wondered if I were being too harsh, but the title fits the current conditions. However, signs are pointing to more action in the coming weeks.
Region: Baja Sur
The IGFA Offshore World Championship tournament kicked off Monday, May 9th and runs through Thursday, May 12th. For daily updates, visit the BD Mexico forum.
The best striped marlin action occured in the vicinity of the 1150 Bank. Live bait for drop-backs seemed to be the hot ticket as fish appeared in the spread. There have been plenty of jumpers and feeders most days to help you confirm if you are in the right neighborhood. Somewhat unusual is Thresher Shark – Baja Fishing Report the number of thresher sharks seen recently as well as the slower but continuing swordfish action. One yacht traveling from the mainland reportedly landed a 300-plus-pound swordfish off of Distilledera and another one was caught six miles off of Grey Rock. Rounding out the blue-water story were a few wahoo in the 35-pound range, which were caught by the boats targeting marlin. The usual mainstays, dorado and tuna, were few and far between with only an occasional catch reported by the fleet.
Inshore proved to be the most fun for many. On the Pacific side, the small roosterfish, with a few 20-pounders were on the chew along with a decent sierra bite. Again, live bait was the key to success.
Another bonus was jack crevalle, which replaced the receding yellowtail bite that moved up the coast to the rock points past the Golden Gate, according to Capt. George Landrum.
San Jose del Cabo
What seems like a short spring is already fading into summer as the highs reached into the 90s. Unlike a few weeks ago the availability of live sardina, caballito, moonfish and mullet improved with the warmer water.
Finally the offshore spots began to produce striped marlin and yellowfin tuna, with a few wahoo and dorado in the mix. The fish are still spread out over a large area because of all the baitfish on the banks.
Billfish action has been centered around the 1150 Bank out to the Cabrillo Seamount, 18-plus miles from shore. Most of the fish are caught with live bait, either dropped back in the pattern or cast to feeding or tailing fish. Like the rest of the Sea of Cortez, dorado are in short supply and no one is sure why.
A few yellowfin tuna have begun schooling near the San Luis Bank and are being caught on both live bait and a variety of lures. Like the billfish, they are moving around and locating them day-to-day so it can be tough. Those that are caught are a decent grade up to 40 pounds and some boats have caught as many as six tuna, though the fleet averages barely half that.
Wahoo fishing is also a hit-or-miss affair but those using a cream/purple colored Rapala X Rap produced the best single day’s catch so far this year.
Those fishing the bottom by soaking bait or working yo-yo jigs were rewarded with the various pargo species, amberjack, cabrilla and grouper. Inshore, the mainstay continued to be sierra, jack crevalle and roosterfish. Most of the roosters were still juvenile-sized, though one boat did report releasing a handful of larger-sized roosterfish.
While the weather was spectacular, the fishing is still trying to catch up. There seems to be plenty of billfish around, they just aren’t very hungry according to everyone’s reports. In the last day or two there was a glimmer of hope when some feeders showed outside of La Ribera. Several boats scored a couple of stripers and another one also pulled a wahoo out of the melee. I ran into Mark Rayor of Jen Wren Sportfishing and he complained that he hadn’t caught any although he was there when it went off. When I pressed him for details he admitted that what really happened was they were zero for six bites, that sounded like pretty good fishing, just not very good catching.
Watching the few boats departing, all at different compass headings, is a sure sign the conditions are still a crapshoot. As the boats return later in the afternoon, it is easy to spot the winners. You know the ones who are smugly smiling.
The beaches are probably the most crowded with what has become an annual migration of fly-fishers of all shapes and sizes. These anglers trudge along on the hot sand in search of a their own trophy roosterfish. They wrap up like mummies to protect themselves from the brutal midday sun.
So far that action has produced some memorable moments for a select few with mostly smaller fish. Local guide Lance Peterson shot me an email that sums it up. “Landed a 40-plus-pound grande and my dad was there to see it from cast to release. Way cool! Man, I needed that one,” he said.
Another oddity, according to Felipe Valdez of Hotel Buena Vista, was the number of thresher sharks landed off of La Ribera. In 20 years of writing reports for East Cape, this species has never appeared in a report until this writing… Weird!
Overall the boats that remained along the shore had the best luck catching roosters, jack crevalle, skipjack, pompano, pargo and still a few quality yellowtail. Confirming that report was Bill Boyce and his crew shooting an IGFA Saltwater Adventures show at Hotel Buena Vista. They caught nine species inshore in one day but was nearly blanked the next day offshore.
Reflecting the up-and-down conditions early in the week, Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International abandoned Las Arenas and focused later in the week on the waters north of La Paz, and it paid off for him.
Much to his surprise the large yellowtail, pargo and cabrilla that had disappeared returned with a vengeance bending everyone’s rods on both bait and iron. “Big fish lost. Big fish caught,” he said. “Even some big amberjack!”
More sargasso weed is floating to the surface every day and hopefully will provide the cover needed to attract schools of dorado that thus far have only been found in small groups.
While it seems a little late, the north winds are still dominating the fishing here. On the days that the wind does back off, the yellowtail action can be awesome. As an example, one boat from the Arturo fleet landed eight fish to 35 pounds on the north side of Carmen Island.
The San Bruno reef north of Loreto also was productive, yielding yellows averaging 18 pounds. These fish were found feeding on the surface. Other species including cabrilla and snapper were caught deeper down in the water column.
In his search for world records, Bo Nelson, an IGFA representative from Oro Valley, Arizona, spent time fishing Loreto. He landed a yellowtail on 30-pound test that broke the all-tackle length record, if approved. This is a new world-record category (http://www.bdoutdoors.com/story/world-records/igfa-all-tackle-length-world-record-category/ ) and all fish entered for Length Records must be measured by anglers at the site of capture and released so that it swims away on their own and in good condition. Revive the fish by moving them forward in the water to ensure a healthy release. The yellowtail caught should break the existing record easily. It weighed approximately 30 to 35 pounds. Other records that were set or broken if approved were light tippets for Pacific barracuda. Bo already has several records to his credit that were caught in Mexico. His records include Pacific barracuda fly-fishing catches on 4-, 8-, 12- and 16-pound tippet.
Lots of yellowtail were found under anything floating in the warmer, blue water 20 miles offshore. Inside of that, there are huge schools of bait in off-color, green water. In the Esteros the water remains cool, resulting in little fishing recently.
Region: Baja Norte
Our first trip scheduled later this month should be great. The locals on the Island are reporting the yellowtail and calicos are already putting on a show, according to Jose Angel Sanchez-Pacheco of Cedros OUTDOOR Adventures.
Fourth of July Fishing Tournament
Plans are well underway for San Quintin’s First Fourth of July Tournament organized by the Association of Sports Fishing Captains of San Quintin, Don Eddie’s Landing, The Old Mill Hotel and the Department of Tourism of Baja.
For all participants interested, the Department of Tourism (Green Angels) will provide an escorted caravan to and from the border and Don Eddie’s Landing in San Quintin. If you are interested, please call Tony at 011-52-616-165-6027 or email [email protected] your name and telephone number. He will confirm your email, and provide updates.
Region: Mexico Mainland
The 28th Annual Sailfish Tournament (Torneo de Pez Vela) held the last weekend of April was disappointing for the 179 boats entered. The results yielded only 15 sailfish, three blue marlin and four dorado in spite of the fact the blue water had moved to within four miles of shore.
Since then, the water temperatures have warmed up all up and down the coast, attracting large schools of roosterfish. Adolfo, who runs the panga Dos Hermanos reported catching 15 roosters from 33 to 55 pounds, using mostly surface poppers last Thursday with many more lost.
The local fishing fleet operating from the unique fishing pier in the middle of town was saddened by the news that the popular 61-year-old local captain Luis Maciel, dubbed the “Tuna King” by his peers, died unexpectedly of a heart attack last week.
“Anglers fishing on his renowned panga Gringo Loco, had landed more 200-pound-plus tuna with him than on any other boat in the fleet.”
Plus Luis was one of the leading fly-fishing guides for billfish. Our thoughts go out to his family.
Luis was an icon, and one of the last of the old-school Mexican fishing captains, a leader in the local conservation of billfish, earning him the respect of the entire Zihuatanejo fleet.
Thanks for joining me on my latest journey. I will do my best to be your eyes and ears for the Baja fishing scene, but it’s a two-way street, and I hope that each of you will be mine. Let me hear your Baja stories by emailing them to me at [email protected].